Immigroup presents the top 10+1 immigration news stories of 2013.
11. 17 Illegal Immigrants Die on Christmas Day
Haitian Migrants [Public Domain]
A sail freighter with at least 200 Haitians headed for Turks and Caicos capsized on Christmas. The boat was being towed into port by local authorities when it flipped over. The US Coast Guard was able to rescue most of the passengers however 17 died because they could not get free of the vessel. The boat was headed to Turks and Caicos because many people use that as a stopping point on their way from Haiti to try to sneak into Florida and get status in the US thanks to the 'wet feet, dry feet' rule.
10. Canada Cracks Down on Immigration Fraud
In the last few years there has been a sea change in Canadian immigration policy, away from family sponsorships and refugees to skilled workers and tradespeople, and people with Canadian work experience. As part of this change, Canadian immigration regulations got stricter in 2013, the first full year of the Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act. Perhaps the most noticeable changes for foreign born residents of Canada has been the rise in frequency of residence questionnaires, both for permanent residents and those applying for citizenship. The RCMP are investigating citizens and permanent residents for immigration fraud, and there is a renewed focus on stopping illegal immigration.
9. Buy Your Citizenship!
Though "investor immigration" programs, such as Canada's, have been around for a few decades, 2013 saw a huge increase in countries offering such programs as a way to increase government revenues without increasing taxes. Countries who have added this type of immigration program in 2013 include:
- Antigua and Barbuda
- The Netherlands
The rules are different from one country to the next, and it's way easier and cheaper to do this in some countries than in others. Countries that will give you citizenship for an investment include:
- Antigua and Barbuda
- St. Kitts and Nevis
- Malta (in 2014)
Countries that require barely any residence include the following: (All countries require one visit per year except where noted)
- Hungary (no visits per year)
And the price changes depending on the country: For example, France requires millions of euros in investment to get a temporary resident permit, whereas Latvia will give permanent residence for an investment under USD$50,000.
It's a brave new world out there.
8. Don't Expect to Live Where You Are Born: Canadian Internal Migration at a 25-year High
People are moving around within Canada more frequently than they have in 25 years. Alberta saw the highest number of Canadian migrants, at 50,000 people, or 1.3% of the province's population, the most the province has ever received from the rest of Canada in a single year. Saskatchewan saw the second largest number of internal migrants. The prairie provinces are attractive because of their lower unemployment rates and higher salaries.
This trend is just an example of what's going on internationally; currently there are over 230 million people around the world living in countries in which they weren't born.
7. The $400 Billion Money Drain
In 2013, the 232 million international migrants sent US$414 billion home from their new places of residence, that's an average of nearly $2000 per person. That may not seem like a lot, but remember that many millions of these people are working in poor countries and sending money back to poorer countries, so the migrants working in rich countries are sending home a lot more money than that per year. The total number is supposed to near $600 billion by 2016.
The top nationalities sending money back home include:
- Indians: $71 billion
- Chinese: $60 billion
- Filipinos: $26 billion
- Mexicans: $22 billion
- Nigerians: $21 billion
- Egyptians: $20 billion
By percentage of their economy, the most helpful transfers were for:
- Tajikistan: 48% of GDP
- Kyrgyzstan: 31% of GDP
- Lesotho: 25% of GDP
- Nepal: 25% of GDP
- Moldova: 24% of GDP
So Tajikistan, on of the 30 poorest countries in the world, would be far poorer were it not for the money from expatriates.
6. The Changing Nature of Greece
Due to its economic struggles Greece has been a major new source of immigrants throughout the western world, particularly Canada, as Greek citizens - particularly young people - fear the worst; unemployment is extraordinarily high - an unbelievable 60% for Greek youths - and the country appears to be overrun by immigrants. And that's the other side of the coin: as Greeks are fleeing the changing economic and social conditions, numerous immigrants, mostly from Africa and the Middle East, are pouring into Greece in part because Greece's border, which consists primarily of windy, Mediterranean Sea coast - the 11th longest in the world by some measures - is impossible to police for illegal immigration. So Greece is seen by those sneaking into Europe as their best bet. Who knows what the country will look like in a decade?
5. US Immigration Reform Stalls
The United States is the most popular destination for people around the world with both the highest number of foreign-born residents and the most new immigrants each year. So as much as it might pain us Canadians to hear more about it, US immigration policy matters to a lot of people. This summer, a US Senate-sponsored immigration reform bill appeared to mark the first major changes in US immigration policy in nearly a decade; however the bill was never passed by the House of Representatives - the other half of Congress - and so never made it into law. Those looking for changes in US immigration policies - either restricting or loosening rules - will have to wait until the new year, at the very earliest.
4. Slave Labour for the 2022 World Cup
Aside from why anyone would organize a major world sports event in the desert, Qatar is also drawing flack for how it treats its migrants workers, particularly the Nepalese. Many Nepalese workers in Qatar are living in terrible conditions, many of them are either not getting paid or getting paid fractions of what they were promised, and at least 44 have died from disease, exposure and a lack of safety standards so far.
3. Black October: The Lampedusa Tragedies
In two shipwrecks, 8 days apart, nearly 400 illegal immigrants died on their way from Libya to Italy in October; the two ships were both less than 120 km from the Italian island of Lampedusa, and the incidents are now known as the Lampedusa shipwreck.
Lampedusa is the closest European island to Tunisia - it is actually closer to Tunisia than it is to Sicily - and so the island has been a destination for migrants seeking to sneak into the EU since the beginning of this century.
The first ship was a 20 metre long fishing boat carrying around 500 people. Naturally, the boat had engine trouble, but it only started to have problems when it was in sight of the island. As the boat began to sink, someone on board decided to signal for help by lighting a blanket on fire. The fire spread and soon most passengers were diving into the water, even though most of the people on board did not know how to swim. After a 10-day search and rescue operation, Italian officials stated that at least 359 people had died in the shipwreck, over 100 of whom had been trapped in the hull of the boat - the remaining likely drowned because they could not swim.
Eight days later, a smaller boat carrying over 200 migrants sank much farther out to sea; however this time the temporary fleet that had been assembled to try to save the migrants on the first boat was still together, and they were able to start the rescue mission much sooner. As a result, most of the passengers were saved, though 34 people still died.
Both disasters were the results of human trafficking rings based in east Afric and the Middle East - the alleged orchestrators are from Palestine, Somalia and Sudan. The migrants reportedly paid about USD$3000 for the voyage and women who could not pay were raped. Torture was used to keep the migrants in line before they got on board the ships in Libya. The Italian government is currently pursuing criminal charges.
2. Edward Snowden
If there was one immigration story about a single person that dominated headlines this year, it was Edward Snowden, the American whistle blower who exposed a global surveillance program, run by five countries - the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand - and aided by numerous private companies and other countries. Snowden had worked for both the CIA and the NSA when he leaked millions of classified documents to the media.
Snowden had contacted members of the Guardian and the Washington post in late 2012, and was actively leaking documents to them by February. In May, he took leave from his job at the NSA supposedly so he could get treatment for his epilepsy. He then traveled to Hong Kong where he revealed his identity. He had wanted to go to Iceland, but he had reservations:
"Leaving the US was an incredible risk, NSA employees must declare their foreign travel 30 days in advance and are monitored. There was a distinct possibility I would be interdicted en route, so I had to travel with no advance booking to a country with the cultural and legal framework to allow me to work without being immediately detained. Hong Kong provided that. Iceland could be pushed harder, quicker, before the public could have a chance to make their feelings known, and I would not put that past the current US administration." (Source)
So instead he tried to seek asylum in Iceland in Hong Kong, but Iceland's laws did not allow such an application from outside of the country of Iceland itself.
Despite the revocation of his passport on the day he left Hong Kong - June 23 - Snowden was able to board a flight to Russia. However, by the time he tried to change planes in Moscow, on his way to Cuba, his passport was invalid and he was not allowed to get on his next plane, stranding him hin Moscow.
When Bolivian President Evo Morales publicly stated that he would be willing to consider Snowden's asylum petition, Morales' plane was re-routed to Austria and reportedly borded by US officials seeking Snowden.
Snowden spent the next month in Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport, waiting for an asylum application to be granted. Russian officials would not hand him over to the Americans but they publicly claimed they were not interested in granting asylum to Snowden either. At the end of July, Snowden formally applied for asylum in Russia, as the countries that had offered asylum to him, all located in Latin America, could not be reached by direct flights from Moscow. Every country that Snowden could face a layover in on his way to Latin America had allegedly been instructed by the US government to detain him.
He is currently living in Russia on "temporary asylum."
1. Nearly 2 Million Refugees Flee Syria
Syrian Refugee Camp [Public Domain]
According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), this is the worst humanitarian crisis since the Rwandan civil war, two decades ago. Over 2.2 million people have left the country and 1.8 million of those do not have somewhere else to go. A further 4 million Syrians are still in the country, but not able to live in their homes. The UNHCR estimates that there may be 5 million Syrian refugees by this time next year. These refugees are seeking safety primarily in the surrounding region. (The below numbers are "official" estimates and likely inaccurate.)
- Lebanon: 795,000 refugees or more
- Jordan: 544,000 or more
- Turkey: 504,000 or more
- Egypt: 127,000 or more
These countries are experiencing all sorts of problems due to the sudden increase in population, which is straining their resources and causing social disruptions, and the conditions in the refugee camps have are reportedly horrible. These countries have all been accused of forcing some refugees to return home but its hard to blame them given how many people have already arrived. Europe has been asked to help with the problem but so far European countries have offered openings for only about 10,000 people across the entire EU: Germany has offered 5,000 spaces, while other countries have offered as few as 10 (Hungary). Many countries, such as Bulgaria and Greece, have been accused of rejecting Syrian refugee applications on technicalities. (For its part, Canada has publicly claimed to be settling 1300 Syrian refugees in 2013.)
Who knows where the additional Syrians will flee too as the crisis continues.